Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has resigned amid controversy over the firing of captain Brett Crozier and an audio leak.
This morning I accepted Secretary Modly's resignation. With the approval of the President, I am appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy. pic.twitter.com/FvfgOwuXw4
— @EsperDoD (@EsperDoD) April 7, 2020
Fox News reports acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has resigned, a U.S. official told Fox News on Tuesday, one day after Modly apologized for suggesting the ousted commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt was either “too naïve or too stupid” — or perhaps even deliberately insubordinate — over his handling of the ship’s coronavirus outbreak.
“Good riddance,” a sailor onboard the Roosevelt told Fox News after hearing the development.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke privately with Modly one-on-one earlier Tuesday morning, Fox News is told. Modley arrived at the conclusion that he should submit his resignation on his own, the sources said, and Esper then spoke to the president, who accepted the reason for the resignation.
“This morning I accepted Secretary Modly’s resignation,” Esper tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “With the approval of the President, I am appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy.”
President Trump had said at the White House coronavirus press conference on Monday that he might get involved in the public crisis because he is good at “settling arguments.” Trump referred to Modly’s criticism of the commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, as “a rough statement.”
Audio of some of Modly’s remarks — and what appeared to be the stunned reaction of some of the crew of the Roosevelt — had circulated online in recent days, along with earlier footage showing the crew cheering Crozier as he was relieved of duty.
Crozier had circulated a memo to Navy leaders last week that was obtained by news media in which he urged speedy action to evacuate the ship of nearly 5,000 sailors as the coronavirus began to escalate. Approximately 155 crew members aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19.
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote in the memo. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.” He added that “due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” referring to social distancing.